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Lawyer with sedative addiction seeks help in proving they’re back on track

Q:

I have been handling criminal cases for years as a public defender through a local agency that functions under the aegis of CPCS. The agency administrator knows that I have a history of addiction to sedatives and that I had a recent month-long relapse after years of sobriety. I am now back on track, attending my usual weekly self-help meeting and feeling fine, but because my behavior was less reliable during the relapse (no client harmed, fortunately), he would like me to prove that I’m back to sustained recovery mode. How can I do that? Does LCL help with this sort of situation?

A:
LCL does, indeed, offer a service that we call “monitoring,” which involves a considerable commitment to sobriety if you choose to participate. You indicate that you currently attend one weekly self-help meeting, and you make no mention of any other therapeutic endeavors.

Under what we call a “monitoring contract,” LCL takes on the role of documenting not only that you appear to be abstinent, but also that you are engaged in a process indicative of dedication to recovery, which significantly enhances your likelihood of success in avoiding relapse. As you know, the relapse process in addictive disorders can be quite insidious. The fact that you have achieved years of abstinence is certainly in your favor, but by no means ensures that your recent relapse will not be followed by another.

Our monitoring agreement typically includes a commitment to attend self-help meetings more days than not (including LCL Support Group meetings where everyone in attendance is a fellow lawyer), some form of therapy/counseling and random alcohol/drug testing. LCL verifies the monitoree’s compliance with these stipulations before providing monthly reports to the agency or firm that is concerned about your functioning. Not only does such a rigorous procedure provide better documentation, it also improves your own odds of preventing, or nipping in the bud, any slippage in your recovery plan.

Of course, LCL can also consult with you in a completely confidential way that involves no outside agency. Even in that case, we would encourage you to build a stronger safety net to protect you from that inner voice that triggered your recent relapse, and to make sure that you are not ignoring other contributing factors, such as mood or anxiety. Although there is little research that indicates that one type of alcohol/drug treatment is a whole lot more effective than another, many studies indicate that more frequent and comprehensive measures make for more successful outcomes.

(We should mention briefly that we have begun to branch out into analogous kinds of monitoring, when indicated, for lawyers facing concerns other than alcohol/drugs, such as depression, that also calls for persisting in a plan for treatment, support, relapse prevention, etc.)

The nicest part of the monitoring process for us is the way that some lawyers, when they look back at the experience, are grateful for the improvements that flowed from it. Sometimes, monitoring has not only preserved careers but enabled participants to reach a higher level of functioning and satisfaction with their lives.


Questions quoted are either actual letters/e-mails or paraphrased and disguised concerns expressed by individuals seeking assistance from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.

Questions for LCL may be mailed to LCL, 31 Milk St., Suite 810, Boston, MA 02109; e-mailed to [e-mail email] or called in to (617) 482-9600. LCL’s licensed clinicians will respond in confidence. Visit LCL online at www.lclma.org.


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